The Shabiha State Causes Horror – the Unraveling is sure to Speed Up.

The sectarian nature of the end-game is becoming ever more brutal and naked. The massacres at Houla and Mazraat al Kabir reveal the sectarian logic of the regime stripped down to its elemental barbarity. Bashar has nothing left but fear. Hafiz al-Assad build his state on traditional loyalties — family, village, tribe and sect — but he was scrupulous about building alliances to every segment of Syrian society. He exploited the anxiety of age-old historic grievances and religious distrust, but he was vigilant about keeping the hair of Muawiyya extended to all. With one hand he held the gun, but with the other he offered a carrot. Bashar has lost the ability to offer carrots. He has no future to promise, only the gun. The regime is left with only the ugliness and inadequacy of sectarian logic.

The revolutionary forces and the insurgency are rapidly become stronger according to this Wash Post article. They are getting better weapons, gaining experience, finding more support from external funders. Most importantly, however, Syrians have abandoned the regime in spirit, even if they have yet to defect in body. Sunni Syrians continue to go to work and turn up in their offices in the morning, but they hate the Assad regime in their hearts. Assad’s army is being taken over by shabiha and security forces manned by Alawites. The massacres leave no doubt about that. The Shabiha seem able to call in artillery bombardments before sweeping in.  They call themselves “Amn al-Assad,” Assad’s Security.

If you can withstand watching brutality, this 16 minute video taken by one of Assad’s security men on an operation in Hammameh outside Idlib, optimizes what is happening in the massacres that are now becoming a daily feature of this struggle. The security men kill 13 local fighters in Hammameh. When the killing is finished and the adrenaline is still pumping through the fighters’ veins, they do what one so often sees in these sorts of videos: the soldiers dehumanize and mock the dead, presumably to reassure themselves that they have done the right thing.  They cursing them and pick out the “guilty.” One soldier places his foot on the head of one of the corpses and speaks into the camera saying, “This one is the “mundess,” or interloper. We hear another say, “He is from Turkey.” The soldier speaks to the dead body and taunts him, asking, “What do you think of `Arour now?” `Arour is the Sunni Syrian Imam who appears regularly on Saudi TV to excoriate Alawites. He is most famous for saying that Alawite supporters of Assad will be ground into hamburger meat and fed to the dogs. Opposition demonstrators frequently chanted `Arour’s name, underlining the communal nature of this struggle. The soldiers drag the bodies into a house, presumably to hide them and perhaps to set them on fire, but we do not see that part. The soldiers call out to each other, cursing the dead and joking in what seems like a nervous effort to establish comradery and group affirmation for their grisly deed. They repeatedly intone “hayy Amn al-Assad,” or “Long live Assad’s Security.” They use each others names and photograph each others faces in an obvious sense of invincibility. One can only presume that when the Assad regime falls, as it must, they will become the hunted.

The revolution remains largely leaderless, which in some ways is its strength. For every opponent of the regime killed, several more pop up to take his place. The regime has been sowing dragon’s teeth. The revolution is popping up everywhere now. The heart of Damascus is now involved. When the merchants of Hamadiya – the main souq – go on strike, you know you have lost the conscience and heart of Damascus. The Sunni bourgeoisie has now turned on the regime.

The opposition is a long way from producing the sort of coordination and command that can march on the Presidential Palace, but today, one can imagine the day when it will summon the strength to do it. Alawites cannot rule Syria alone.

A Sunni friend in Aleppo writes four days ago:

Rockets are being fired from Aleppo on the villages north of us as I write this message to you. So far more than 25 and counting – actual rockets.

I asked “Will Assad be in power next year?” He replied:

“I know if I am alive by this time next year and if Bashar is still in power then I will be living outside Syria. If the regime were to prevail, then millions will be dying in his prisons. It will be only a matter of time before they will get to me. I think millions share my fear and they know there is no way back. So if no one steps in to stop him, we will be looking at a massacre after another.”

Syria’s Christians are torn between supporting and opposing the regime. Some believe that the regime must be stopped. They fear that as Sunnis are displaced and chased from their own homes that they will prey upon the weaker Christians, taking their homes and apartments. This is already happening in Homs and Wadi Nasara. (See note below) For this reason they blame Assad and want him stopped. Others remain loyal to the regime, believing that a Sunni victory will cause Christians to lose even more.

A friend from Wadi Nasara (The Christian Valley and Marmarita region just north of Lebanon and south of Homs) writes:

My wife is from a village in the Christian heartland of Syria, and her family is telling her and her sisters, the Syrian Army is pounding Aal’Hosn, the Crusader Castle, not far from their village, and also displaced Sunni’s have rented properties in a village not far from her’s called Mar Marita and are refusing to continue to pay rent or leave the village, and it’s creating tension among the villagers and the Sunni’s who moved in. I read your FP article and I understand your points, however, the killing needs to be stopped and although you make valid points for non-intervention, there are ways the world can slow down Assad’s killing machine, without getting involved with boots on the ground or Iraqi style…

this is rapidly evolving into a very clear sectarian war, in that the Alawite villages that surround certain Sunni villages, are taking revenge on the loved ones they have lost who were fighting for Assad….

My wife thinks unless something happens soon to stop Assad, and calm the nerves of the people who are clearly on high edge, the tit for tat vengeful killings will escalate, and soon it will envelope the Christians, as the Sunni’s are starting to quietly / not so quietly raise the rhetoric that the Christian silence is not so deafening to them, anymore…..

Like I said the other day, people renting homes to Sunni’s are now finding out they not only won’t leave, but now, it looks like a great many are not willing to continue to pay rent, telling the Christians, “if you want your money, go get it from your government”……wow… long does anyone think THAT, in itself, is going to last, before it explodes…?

A Christian from Marmarita in the Wadi Nasara (Christian Valley region just south of the Alawite mountains and north of Lebanon.)

…Over 40 young men (including a couple of doctors) from the Wadi area, we’re killed by the bearded men who are eager to give us democracy. In a few of these killing, they decapitated the bodies and severed limbs. In one occasion, they gave the body back to the family but kept the head and put it on top of a hill. They stood about a couple hundred feet and challenged anyone to come pick it up. Finally a guy drove his pickup truck in high speed and picked up the head under fire.
Here is another one: at one point, Crac de Chevaliers became a multinational hub of Afghani, Libyans and Lebanese bearded men. The Afghanis were actually non-threatening. But the two Arab groups had an argument as to which sheikh should rule the castle. There was a Libyan sheikh and a Lebanese one. A fire fight erupted, and a few martyrs died. Now the castle was finally cleaned up by the army. It turned out that the Lebanese sheikh was actually wanted in Lebanon for commuting several murders. He was caught alive. … This is the sad truth. The good news is that the security situation is steadily improving. The hope is that the refugees will return to their homes and start the rebuilding process…..
Most of them settled in Tartous, Latakia, Aleppo or Damascus. My sister made new friends from Homs, who only had their clothes and left everything behind. A few who are well to do rented shops and started their businesses (or clinics) there.
Another story:  my first cousin’s sister in law fled her house in bustan al deewan because of daily harassment by the militants from Baba Amr and al-khalideeah. A few weeks after she left, she called her own home number. A guy answers the phone. She asked who he is. He gave a name. She asked “what are you doing here”.  He said he lives there. She told him “but this is my house”.  He said “the priest of the local church gave it to me”.
The militants constantly drive through the area, and either fire shots in the air, or show their weapons. They have essentially settled in the empty houses. They only leave when the government forces kick them out, only to return later when the cat is away from the rat.
Churches are demolished inside. Anything of value is stolen. Things of little value are thrown on the street and destroyed.
A distant relative of mine (in his seventies) was shot in his leg. When his family tried to take him to a hospital, the long-bearded men didn’t allow them to touch him. He bled to death. He was from marmarita living in Homs.
Dera’a el-Balad is being pounded, so far over twenty dead. Reports of shelling into the city.
Syrian businessmen living abroad have created a $300 million fund to support rebels
DOHA | Wed Jun 6, 2012

Reuters) – Syrian businessmen living abroad have created a $300 million fund to support rebels fighting forces of President Bashar al-Assad, opposition activists said on Wednesday.

“This fund has been established to support all components of the revolution in Syria, and to establish a strong relationship with businessmen inside and outside Syria and to protect civilians,” Wael Merza, secretary general of the opposition Syrian National Council, told reporters in the Qatari capital.

Assad named a Baath Party stalwart to form a new government on Wednesday, signaling no political concessions to Syria’s 15-month-old uprising.

Merza said that half of the $300 million had already been spent, some of which were contributions to the rebel Free Syrian Army.

“The majority of support given (to the rebels) will be on the technical side,” Merza said. “It’s also logistical support to our people on the ground.”

“Yes, we supported the Free (Syrian) Army to protect civilians,” said Mustafa Sabbagh, president newly-formed Syrian Business Forum of businessmen in exile.

The fund will be based in Doha, Merza said

Merza said Russia’s call for an international meeting was “an acceptable move in the right direction.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a broad international meeting on the crisis in Syria with the aim of reviving former United Nations chief Kofi Annan’s peace plan, but made clear he believed Assad’s opponents were responsible for its failure so far.

The Annan plan calls for a negotiated end to the Syrian crisis after a ceasefire that has yet to take hold. Merza hinted at strong financial support from oil-rich Gulf Arab states for the new fund. “We are going to see distinct support of this fund from neighbors in a very clear manner, in a matter of weeks. We expect Qatar to play a major role,” he said.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal called on the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to put Annan’s plan under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, a measure that could authorize the use of force.

In northern Syria, rebels now control many towns and villages
By DAVID ENDERS, McClatchy Newspapers

QALAAT AL-MUDIQ, Syria — It’s been two months since anyone has seen a police officer in this central Syrian city

Though the Syrian military occupies an ancient citadel overlooking Qalaat al-Mudiq, it’s reached a truce with the Free Syrian Army rebel groups that control the city below. Residents and rebel leaders say the last time military forces attempted to enter the city was in March, but a pair of successful ambushes pushed them back to their base. The military doesn’t enter, shoot at or shell the town anymore, even though a rebel sniper recently killed a soldier who’d stood exposed too long in the citadel.

The Free Syrian Army, the moniker taken by most of the loosely organized militias that have taken up arms against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, kicked the police out of the city in September. The army tried to install a pair of police officers in the local station later, but the officers were promptly abducted by the rebels when the army withdrew. They were later released to their families after their families paid a ransom.

Amid a torrent of news coverage focused on massacres and sanctions, a major change in the Syrian political landscape has gone largely unremarked: All across northern and central Syria, in an area known as the al-Ghab Plain, a growing number of villages and towns effectively are outside government control.

In an area that stretches from the mountains around Jisr al-Shughour in the north to the town of Salhab in the south, and east to the highway that links the cities of Hama and Idlib, rebels administer justice and provide local services, including the distribution of cooking gas and food. A U.N. cease-fire that was supposed to begin in April has never really taken effect, but in these safe havens, rebel fighters and sympathizers live largely outside Syrian military intervention. Syrian troops who patrol nearby do so in armored vehicles because of the threat of roadside bombs and ambushes.

The safe space has allowed rebels to stockpile and manufacture weapons and hold prisoners. It also provides a base from which the rebels move into other parts of the country that until now have been relatively quiet.

That dynamic was on display as recently as Tuesday, when fighting broke out in al-Haffa, a town near the city of Latakia on the Mediterranean Coast. Latakia remains a government stronghold, but rebels have pushed out of their areas to challenge the government in villages around the city. Twenty-two government soldiers were reported killed in the al-Haffa fighting, and rebels who fought there before withdrawing to the al-Ghab area said they had freed prisoners, abducted police officers and bulldozed the local police station and secret police offices before withdrawing under an intense attack from helicopter gunships.

“The army only controls the area directly under their tanks,” said Mohanned al-Masri, a member of Ahrar al-Sham, one of the groups based in the al-Ghab Plain and the primary supplier of rebel fighters at al-Haffa. “Here, the regime has already fallen.”

Ahrar al-Sham also is manufacturing rockets in the area. “We are perfecting the accuracy now,” said Khalid al-Amin, the leader of Ahrar al-Sham in Qalaat al-Mudiq.

In this town, the array of rebel forces is on display – as are the differences among them.

Ahrar al-Sham draws its members from followers of a conservative strain of Islam known as Salafism; its followers see themselves as fighting in part for the right to preach their doctrine and the fall of a government that jailed them for doing so.

Another group, Suqor al-Ghab, the largest in Qalaat al-Mudiq, claims to be aligned with the largely secular Free Syrian Army leadership in Turkey. On Monday, its forces here were overseeing the distribution of cooking gas, which is in short supply across the country because of sanctions against Assad’s government.

The ironies of the ongoing war are also on display.

“I am still drawing my government check as a teacher,” said Mousab al-Hamadee, an anti-government activist here, smiling. The Syrian government continues to provide services such as electricity and water without interruption.

“Things are going on as usual, except that it became hard for Alawites to come to work,” said Amin, the Ahrar al-Sham leader, referring to members of the Shiite Muslim sect that also includes Assad. Ahrar al-Sham members, as Salafis, follow Sunni Islam. Amind said Alawites now fear retaliation from Sunnis for the support in Alawite villages for pro-government militiamen known locally as Shabiha.

On the outskirts of Qalaat al-Mudiq, fighters from Ahrar al-Sham lazily manned a checkpoint on the main road north to the city of Jisr al-Shughour, whose outskirts are also outside of government control. Rebels who’d crossed the Turkish border en route to Jisr al-Shughour last week said that the army is entirely absent from the area. The army holds the center of Idlib, the largest city in northwestern Syria, but the edges of the city and the surrounding areas belong to the rebels.

To the west of the checkpoint, nestled in the foothills of Latakia Mountain, the Free Syrian Army’s control becomes more tenuous, as the Sunni-dominated area gives way to a string of villages populated largely by Alawites. Al-Ramleh, a Sunni village to the west of here, had been largely emptied after the killings of a woman and four of her children by pro-government militiamen two weeks ago. Some months before, the nearby village of Tamana had suffered a similar fate, after a raid by the military and pro-government militiamen.

Nonetheless, the rebels feel the momentum is strongly in their favor. They say they are getting better weapons, including armor-piercing rocket-propelled grenade rounds, as the volume of arms being smuggled into Syria from Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey appears to have grown. Groups of fighters in the area are also building bombs and stockpiling small mortar rounds.

Amin said that Ahrar al-Sham and the other rebel groups are making plans soon to rid the city of the army’s presence. The cease-fire with the army would end in mid-June, he said, when the wheat crop had been harvested.

“There will be a big war,” he said.

Syria peace plan not working, U.N. envoy Kofi Annan says
Kofi Annan tells the United Nations that Syria is headed toward civil war. Diplomats consider involving Iran in negotiations with Bashar Assad’s government.
By Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times, June 7, 2012

….”We cannot allow mass killing to become part of everyday reality in Syria,” Annan said. …

Annan said that unless the fighting is halted, “all Syrians will lose.”….

U.S. and British officials have balked at any inclusion of Tehran, a staunch ally of Assad and the regional nemesis of the West. But Russia has backed the idea of an expanded meeting of nations that have influence with various factions in the 15-month-old uprising.

The forum being pushed by Moscow would include the five permanent members of the Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France — the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and Syrian neighbors Turkey and Iran.

At the General Assembly on Thursday, Russia and China reiterated their support for the Annan peace plan but also reaffirmed their opposition to any solution involving military intervention in Syria or forced “regime change,” though both nations have said Assad’s survival is not a precondition if the Syrian people choose otherwise. The two powers have twice vetoed Security Council resolutions that condemned Assad’s crackdown on dissent and could have led to sanctions or other action against his government.

The United States and its allies, meantime, say Assad’s departure is a necessary outcome of any peace plan. The Obama administration is trying to persuade Russia to get aboard a plan similar to what happened in Yemen, where President Ali Abdullah Saleh was eased out of power and replaced by his former deputy after a year of protests.

The State Department’s special representative on Syria, Fred Hof, was in Moscow on Thursday for talks with the Russians, the department said. There was no immediate word of the outcome of those talks.

In Istanbul, Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made it clear that the Annan plan — with its call for a cease-fire and withdrawal of government troops and heavy weapons from populated areas — is only one part of what Washington and its allies seek. In addition, Assad “must transfer power and depart Syria” and an “interim representative government must be established through negotiation,” Clinton said.

“The time has come for the international community to unite around a plan for post-Assad Syria,” Clinton said after meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Although the Annan blueprint has widespread backing, the forced departure of Assad seemed to remain a red line for Russia and China…..

U.N. monitors shot at in Syria, Annan plan crumbles
8 Jun 2012

Reuters reports: U.N. monitors came under fire in Syria on Thursday while trying to investigate reports of a new massacre that raised the pressure on world powers struggling to halt the carnage and save a peace plan from collapse. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described as “unspeakable barbarity” the reported killing of at least 78 villagers […]

Foreign Policy

Russia has said it would support President Bashar al-Assad leaving power, but maintained that it can only be as part of a negotiated political settlement. However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said the Yemen model, in which the 33-year dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, transitioned from power wouldn’t work in Syria because the opposition doesn’t have the political desire to negotiate, he claimed. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a broader international meeting including Turkey and Iran to work to assist in furthering the peace process. After expelling several foreign diplomats on Tuesday, the Syrian government agreed to allow increased humanitarian assistance to reach one million people. Meanwhile over 60 people were reported killed on Tuesday, including 26 government forces, in clashes across the country. The coastal province of Latakia has seen two days of the fiercest attacks since the beginning of the uprising last year, with tank, gunship, and helicopter fire.

By Robert Satloff of WINEP,  June 7, 2012

….If Syria descends into the chaos of all-out civil war, it’s not only Syrians who will lose out, as Annan suggests. Very clear American interests are also at stake.

Consider the many plausible scenarios that could yet transpire. They include:

* Syrian army units responsible for the control of the regime’s substantial chemical and biological weapons stocks leave their posts, either through defection, mutiny, attack from insurgents or orders from superiors to fight elsewhere, and these weapons of mass destruction go rogue.

* Syria lashes out at Turkey’s hosting of anti-Assad rebels by offering aid and comfort to a rejuvenated PKK insurgency against Ankara, reigniting a hellish Kurdish terrorist campaign that has claimed more than 30,000 Turkish lives over the past 30 years.

* Syria pushes hundreds of thousands of hapless Palestinians still living in government-controlled refugee camps over the Jordanian, Lebanese and even Israeli borders as a way to regionalize the conflict and undermine the stability of neighboring states.

* Syrian soldiers, Alawi thugs and their Hizbollah allies take their anti-Sunni crusade to the Sunnis of Lebanon, reigniting a fifteen-year conflict that sucked regional proxies — and U.S. Marines — into its vortex.

* Thousands of jihadists descend on Syria to fight the apostate Alawite regime, transforming this large Eastern Mediterranean country into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorists.

None of this is fantasy. The threat of loose chemical and biological weapons tops the agenda of American and Israeli military planners.

swift and decisive action to hasten Assad’s departure is the best way to immunize against this set of terrifying outcomes. While Assad may unleash some of his fury in the face of assertive international action, chances are more likely that a clear display of resolve in support of the opposition is the key ingredient to fracturing his surprisingly resilient governing coalition and bringing the regime tumbling down.

Such resolve could include a mix of cyberwarfare, to interfere with Syrian government communications efforts; unmanned drones, to target key installations and weapons depots; air power, to establish and defend safe zones; and a manned element based in neighboring states, to execute a train and equip mission to support rebel forces. At the same time, it is essential that the United States, teamed with Arab, Turkish and other allies, inject urgency and energy into the task of upgrading the cohesion and message of the Syrian political opposition, so that there is a clear answer to the important question of what comes in the wake of Assad’s demise.

Even with all-out effort, a dose of realism is warranted. Syria is going to be a mess for years to come; a peaceful, inclusive, representative Syria anytime soon — one hesitates even to use the word “democratic” — is a fantasy. In a post-Assad world, inter-ethnic reconciliation will be an uphill battle, and the inclusion of some Islamists in a successor government is — regrettably, in my view — a necessary fact of Syrian life. Still, policymaking is often accepting bad outcomes when the alternatives are worse, especially when the worse outcomes have the potential to wreak havoc on American interests.

Russia to Talk Syria Transition With U.S. in Shift From Assad
2012-06-06, By Flavia Krause-Jackson and Henry Meyer

June 6 (Bloomberg) — As Syria slides toward civil war, Russia is signaling that it no longer views President Bashar al-Assad’s position as tenable and is working with the U.S. to seek an orderly transition A U.S. delegation headed by Fred Hof, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s special adviser on Syria, is scheduled to meet with Russian counterparts June 8 in Moscow. They will try to forge a common approach to moving Assad aside — or even out of the country — with a goal of replacing him with someone acceptable to both sides in the conflict, according to two U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Under newly elected Russian President Vladimir Putin, an evolution from support for Russia’s main Mideast ally could break a diplomatic deadlock. Russia’s threatened veto in the United Nation’s Security Council has hobbled 15 months of international efforts to pressure the Assad regime with sanctions and other measures as the conflict deteriorated from peaceful protests into an armed conflict with sectarian undercurrents.

“In Moscow, they understand now that there is no chance of maintaining the status quo, they are looking at the question of a change of regime,” said Fyodor Lukyanov, an analyst with the Moscow-based Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. “The only thing that Russia can do is to try and keep some influence in Syria. A managed change of regime is the only option now.”

While the Russian government for the first time sees a change of government in Syria as possible via a series of steps, it remains adamant that the outcome not be imposed from outside, according to a Russian official not authorized to speak publicly on this matter.

Washington Post’s David Ignatius: Annan’s new road map for peace in Syria

ISTANBUL Kofi Annan is tinkering with a radical idea for reviving his moribund peace plan for Syria — a road map for political transition there that would be negotiated through a “contact group” that could include, among other nations, Russia …

What’s intriguing about Annan’s new approach is that it could give Russia and Iran, the two key supporters of Assad’s survival, some motivation to remove him from power, and also some leverage to protect their interests in a post-Assad Syria. This would also make the plan controversial, with Israel and Saudi Arabia asking why the United Nations would give the mullahs in Tehran a share of the diplomatic action….

To break the deadlock, Annan would create his contact group, composed of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States), plus Saudi Arabia and perhaps Qatar to represent the Arab League, and Turkey and Iran. The idea is to bring together the countries with most influence on the situation.

This unwieldy group would then draft a transition plan and take it to Assad and the Syrian opposition. This road map would call for a presidential election to choose Assad’s successor, plus a parliamentary ballot and a new constitution — with a timeline for achieving these milestones.

Assad would presumably depart for Russia, which is said to have offered him exile; the Syrian dictator is rumored to have transferred $6 billion in Syrian reserves to Moscow already. Under this scenario, Assad presumably could avoid international prosecution for war crimes. Iran is also said to have offered exile to Assad and his family.

To contain the bloodletting that would follow Assad’s ouster, Annan is said to favor a detailed plan for reforming the security forces, similar to reforms in Eastern Europe after the fall of communism.

The Russians’ participation could help stabilize Syria during the transition, because they might get buy-in from the Syrian military, many of whose senior officers are Russian-trained. As Syria’s main weapons supplier, Moscow has, over many decades, developed and cultivated contacts throughout the regime power structure.

Would Russia or Iran support this unconventional proposal? It’s impossible to know. …

Damascus merchants put up shutters in challenge to Assad
Tuesday, 05 June 2012
Many Damascus merchants have closed their stores for a week in protest against the massacre of more than 100 people in Houla. (Reuters)

In the biggest act of civil disobedience by Damascus merchants in Syria’s 15-month-old uprising, many stores have been closed for a week in protest against the massacre of more than 100 people in Houla on May 25.

The closures have affected districts all across the capital, from the Old City market to opposition areas where 70 percent of stores appeared shut despite what shopkeepers said were attacks and threats by security forces to force them to reopen.

“We want to participate in the strike but at the same time we are afraid of the reaction of the security police,” said Mohammed, who owns a clothes shop in the traditional al-Hamidiya souk – a long, covered walkway that cuts through the Old City.

Widespread closures in the capital, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, represent a major challenge to the Syrian leader and Mohammed said security forces had broken open his locked shop door a few days ago to intimidate him.

The Shabiha: Inside Assad’s death squads

Posted: 05 Jun 2012 10:55 AM PDT

The Telegraph reports: The door to Dr Mousab Azzawi’s clinic, on the Mediterranean coast of Syria, was always open to anyone who needed help. But, operating in the heartland of the feared Shabiha militia, there were some patients the doctor would have preferred not to treat. “They were like monsters,” said Dr Azzawi, who worked […]

Initially the Shabiha were a mafia clan, making money through racketeering. Selma, the Alawite with Shabiha family, said her cousins were “filthy rich” through smuggling in diesel, milk and electronics. “Anything to Lebanon that is cheaper in Syria, and whatever is needed in Syria from Lebanon,” she said.

The ruling Assad family turned a blind eye to their criminal behaviour and violent methods. In return, the Shabiha became the Assads’ fiercely loyal defenders and enforcers.

“They are fuelled by this belief that they are fighting for their survival,” said Dr Azzawi. “Assad tells them that they must defend the government or else they will be destroyed; it’s kill, or be killed.”

Dr Azzawi, who now runs the Syrian Network for Human Rights from London, showed The Sunday Telegraph a video of the Shabiha in action.

An enormous man, identified on the video as Areen al-Assad – a member of the president’s family clan – posed with his gun, grinned from the steering wheel of his car, and flexed his muscles. His huge bicep bulged with a tattoo of the president’s face.

At the end of the video, the posturing Shabiha militants proclaim: “Bashar, do not be sad: you have men who drink blood.”

“It is their motto,” explained Dr Azzawi, who said that many of the men were recruited from bodybuilding clubs and encouraged to take steroids. “They are treated like animals, and manipulated by their bosses to carry out these murders. They are unstoppable.”

Intervention in Syria: Reconciling Moral Premises and Realistic OutcomesBy Eva Bellin and Peter Krause

Iran has serious strategic interests in the survival of the Assad regime and so is unlikely to be persuaded to abandon it. But Iran’s capacity to sustain the regime is limited given its own economic difficulties. By contrast, China’s economic interests in Syria are not substantial; its support for the Assad regime stems primarily from irritation at U.S. moves in East Asia, along with a perceived stake in defending the principle that external forces ought not to intervene to settle the course of domestic conflicts. If it were isolated from Russian backing, China’s stance could be budged. The key obstacle to choking the Syrian regime is Russian support, and here close attention to Russia’s key concerns suggest the means for separating it from Assad. Russia has stood by the Assad regime for three reasons: to uphold the principle of “non-interference” in domestic insurgencies; to protect Russia’s economic and military interests in Syria (control of Tartous; a market for Russian arms; the extension of Russian naval power in the region); and to assert Russia’s standing as a great power in world affairs (even if that is measured simply by its ability to stick it in the eye of the United States).

If the international community wants to choke off Russian support, it has to take Russia’s interests seriously and show Russia, as Steve Walt has suggested, that regime change in Syria will not compromise Russia’s core interests. To the contrary, Russia needs to be persuaded that continuing to subsidize the Assad regime is much more dangerous for Russia, since prolonged civil war might very well lead to a collapse of the state and create a political vacuum in Syria that would not serve Russia’s foreign policy interests. Not only might Russia be persuaded to give up opposing regime change in Syria; it might be encouraged to take the lead in overseeing such regime change—and even might be permitted to take credit for that outcome. By shepherding the process and taking ownership of regime change in Syria, Russia could protect its core economic and military interests and confirm its standing as a major power shaping world affairs. To this end, negotiations with the Syrian opposition could perhaps take place in Russia—or, if that is not possible, at least under Russian sponsorship….

Andrew Sullivan – Syria’s Russia Problem

A turning point in Lebanon
The open invitation Syria once had to dictate its will in the country has ended, much to the dismay of Hizbullah
By Sami Moubayed | June 5, 2012, Gulf News

Lebanese President Michel Sulaiman’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia, his meeting with King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz and his lunch with Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal speaks volumes about how Lebanon is struggling to escape Syrian tutelage at a time when pro-Syrian Lebanese parties are aggressively trying to drag Lebanon into Syria’s current mess. Had Syrian officials got their way, then this meeting would have never happened at a time when Syrian-Saudi relations are at an all-time low. Syrian officialdom, no doubt, would have preferred that the Lebanese President visit Damascus instead to hammer out the recent crisis in Lebanon — as customarily done since 1975.

The luncheon hosted by the Saudi minister, which was attended by ex-prime minister Sa’ad Hariri, was also a source of alarm for the Syrians, and of course, so was Prime Minister Najeeb Mikati’s visit to Istanbul where he discussed the Lebanon file with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The declared objective of the Lebanese-Saudi Summit was to prepare for the National Dialogue Conference that Sulaiman had called for at Baabda Palace, which is due to kick off on June 11. This is aimed at preventing Lebanon from sinking into sectarian strife after deadly fighting took place in Tripoli between the Jabal Mohsen neighbourhood, which is pro-Syrian regime, and the Sunni Bab Al Tabbaneh neighbourhood, which supports the Syrian revolt. From Saudi Arabia, Sulaiman headed to Kuwait, another Gulf country that has turned against the Syrian regime over the past year, with the aim of convincing its leaders to revoke their travel warning to Lebanon, ahead of the summer season that is reliant on Gulf tourists.

Coinciding with the Lebanese president’s efforts was a speech by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, on the 23rd anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, delivered at the Unesco Palace. Earlier last week, Nasrallah had shown rather striking moderation, thanking his political opponent Hariri — rather than bashing him as Hezbollah has customarily done — while calling on his followers to refrain from street violence after the abduction of 11 Lebanese hostages, all Shiite pilgrims, in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo. On Friday, however, Nasrallah addressed the captors — without identifying them — saying military action was an option if a peaceful solution was not found for the crisis. The National Dialogue, which was called for by Saudi Arabia, was accepted by Hezbollah, and Nasrallah even went a step further, hoping that no party would boycott it. Then came the clashes on Saturday, between pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian Lebanese, which left at least 15 people dead and which threatened to bring all reconciliation attempts back to square one.

All of this means something remarkable is happening in Lebanon and it plays out in favour of the Lebanese, if invested in wisely. The open invitation Syria once had to dictate its will on Lebanon has apparently come to an end, much to the dismay of Hezbollah and its allies. What then will the Lebanese discuss at the National Dialogue Conference and to what extent — if any — does Syria want this conference to succeed if it won’t have a final say on its outcome? The list of “high-priority topics” is long indeed. They have the hostages to deal with, the security situation in Tripoli, the distance from Syria that the international community is imposing on the Lebanese state, the future of the Najeeb Mikati cabinet, Lebanon’s controversial electoral law and, of course, the issue of Hezbollah’s arms.

Near paralysis

An estimated 60 to 70 per cent of the country’s public posts are vacant, leading to a near paralysis of the state, as most of these appointments have to abide by the delicate rules of sectarianism and political affiliations between Hariri’s March 14 and Hezbollah’s March 8 Coalition. In the past, Syria used its influence in Lebanon to make sure that Hezbollah’s arms were not mentioned at any Lebanese round-table talks, but today it no longer has the leverage to make things happen at will in Lebanon. No dialogue would be complete if Hezbollah’s arms are not on the table, and no reconciliation is possible in Lebanon if these arms remain autonomous from the Lebanese state, regardless of what Syria and Iran want for Lebanon.

This is a golden opportunity for Lebanese political figures to sit down and solve their problem just like the Palestinians did in early 2011, when they invested in the reality that both Egypt and Syria — the traditional patrons of Hamas and Fatah respectively— were too busy to meddle and obstruct the internal politics of the Palestinians. The real problem for the Palestinians was Syria and Egypt, not Fatah and Hamas. As a result, freed from outside Arab pressure, the Palestinians struck a historic deal, and the Lebanese can (if they pull the right strings) do the same next week at Baabda. Lebanon deserves a better future, no doubt, and that can only happen if and when its politicians start acting as Lebanese statesmen, rather than proxies or stooges for the Saudis, Iranians and Syrians.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian, 
university professor, and editor-in-chief of 
‘Forward’ magazine.

Syria – the murder of tolerance
Eliot Benman in Your Middle East, June 4, 2012

The Al-Assad regime chooses to hold the highest contempt for a society that they themselves created, rather than trying genuinely to better that society. They willfully ignore the correlation between political, economic, and cultural oppression and the development of religious conservatism and radicalism, to their own benefit – or downfall. …. a sense of abandonment among the opposition has made Syria fertile ground for extremist ideologies.

Meanwhile, after egging on protesters and militants with empty rhetoric and sanctions, the so-called Friends of Syria continue pursuing flawed diplomatic solutions while trying to determine the merits of international intervention in its various potential forms. Policymakers must realize that in the time it takes them to ponder – the length of an electoral season perhaps – the Syrian regime’s brutality is creating a whole new generation of religious extremists.

When Syria becomes a hotbed of Islamist terrorism and radicals begin pouring from this once beautiful country into the rest of the region and beyond, Westerners will stand morally outraged at the ensuing atrocities and ask the inane question “why do they hate us?”

The answer on many lips will be “because they hate our freedom”, but the correct answer is: we failed to uphold theirs.

Comments (236)

Pages: « 1 2 3 4 [5] Show All

201. Observer said:

bronco graces us with his pontification about Ghalioun being a disaster.

Pray tell us what kind of glory did the Corleone family of Syria bring us but a 100 x worse disasters.

To be fair I will enumerate some of the successes of the regime in Syria in several areas:

1. It did provide for an alliance against Israel and against those Arab countries that wanted to be subservient to Israel

2. It did undermine the occupation of Iraq and help defeat the project there even though it was the Iraqis that did the heavy lifting

As for disasters;

1. 40 years of an abhorrant state of emergency that undermined the very essence of a civil society and of an idea of justice above all.

2. 40 years of deep corruption to the point that the father in a speech encouraged people to give “gifts” to civil servants for their good work.

3. 40 years of a constitution that is an affront to the very basic idea of humanity when it explicitly prohibits prosecution of security services for acts done during their official capacity

4. 40 years of complete inept economic policies that left the country devastated .

5. 40 years of repeated defeats against Israel be it in 67 or 73 or again in 82 and 86

6. 20 years of subjugating the Lebanese to daily humiliation and to institutionalized corruption to the point that the political web is now made up of similar mafiosi warlords.

7. 40 years of so called Arab solidarity and call for union only to have Syrian forces join US forces in fighting against Iraqi forces

8. 40 years of calling for freedom only to become pawns in the hands of a second rate power called Russia

9. 40 years of championing Arab nationalism only to end up an ally of a theocracy that in its first article of constitution declares that sovereignty belongs to God and that the country is to be governed through the Wellaiet Al Fagih.

10. 40 years of single family rule to the point that an entire country is now hostage to the whims of a stupid head of state and commander in chief who declares that he is not responsible for the conduct of his government and armed forces and whose brother is so brutal that he films himself surrounded by the body parts of the Sednaya prison.

At least Ghalioun resigned.

From the ….. Keeper to the saddled ……….. horse to Just another dude or adoring news network we have to put up with insults to humanity and to our intelligence.


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June 10th, 2012, 10:41 pm


202. majedkhaldoun said:

Those who believe that plan B is to seperate are delusional, to the level that is clearly did not understand this revolution, Civil war is very destructive, and surviving in the mountain is different from controling the coast, they will put themselves in prison.they have to leave the big cities,like Damascus and Homs and yes Halab,and they have to be self dependent, it is true delusional idea.

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June 10th, 2012, 11:21 pm


203. Juergen said:

JNA 154

I am more sceptical there will be an full forensic investigation carried out by the UN or the syrian regime. There are no experts whatsoever on the ground nor does the regime have the expertise to carry out such an investigation. The UN security council could decide and ask its member states to send their experts. The regime will surely not accept US, German, French investigators on their ground, they might accept chinese, russian and Venezoelian experts.

One other issue about the identity of those killed, there is no central name register in Syria, just the Muchtar of that village may have a record, and guess who installs such Muchtars, so it may take years and exhumations at a later stage to know sho committed this Srebrenica style event in Syria.


The story of the Krak is heartbreaking, i happen to have been to the Krak almost at every visit to Syria. There is a restaurant right accross with great local cuisine, i always chatted with the owner and his son, very gentle kurdish folks( there is a high percentage of the surrounding village of kurdish origin, since the time of Salah Aldeen-that made the arabic name: hosn al akrad)
and i was looking desperatly yesterday for his mobile number to ask what has happend, well I am still searching.

Here is a video of Christine Mueller who is now in Syria, she has crossed the Turkish Border alongside with a group of FSA soldiers. Its an honest report on the Army and especially the local commander wanted to be interviewed to show the world that AQ and Islamists arent leading the FSA.

Homsis never lost their humor

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June 10th, 2012, 11:37 pm


204. Jad said:

Finally Avaaz lie exposed, what took them this much time to expose that warmonger organization. It’s unbelievable how many organizations and liars were exposed over the Syrian bloody revo:

‎”Folks, here is a good example of what to watch out for when it comes to online propaganda. WRH has been in operation under various forms (sub-page at my animation site, then “Rancho Runamukka”, etc.) up to the present. We are just barely paying the bills. The corporate media rarely deigns to notice us. That is how real world blogs and media evolve, slowly, over time, building audience.

But when you see a purported blog or group emerge virtually overnight, well funded, being constantly quoted and referred to in the corporate media, such as a Wikileaks or an Avaaz, you have every reason to ask where they got all that cash in one lump and why the corporate media is “selling” them to you as hard as they can.”

Avaaz: Empire Propaganda Mill Masquerading as Grassroots Activism

‘Activism’ and ‘human rights’ foundation Avaaz blames the Houla massacre on Assad and calls for foreign intervention. A peek into the background of Avaaz explains its pro-empire position, and who is really behind it.

The ultra-shadowy Avaaz Foundation is purportedly a non-governmental organisation that seeks to(1) “close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”

A mere three days after the Houla Massacre in Syria, while all parties were clamouring to figure out what had happened and who was responsible, Avaaz took the opportunity to speculatively blame the Assad regime as part of an online petition campaign. What is even more disconcerting is that this ‘human rights’ organisation also made a thinly-veiled call for foreign intervention – something which would undoubtedly result in astronomical human suffering.

Using emotive and crafty language,(2) Alice Jay (Avaaz’s Campaign Director) blames Assad for the Houla massacre indirectly, by alluding to the decision of several Western governments to expel Syrian diplomats:

Dozens of children lie covered with blood, their faces show the fear they felt before death, and their innocent lifeless bodies reveal an unspeakable massacre. These children were slaughtered by men under strict orders to sow terror. Yet all the diplomats have come up with so far is a few UN monitors ‘observing’ the violence. Now, governments across the world are expelling Syrian ambassadors, but unless we demand strong action on the ground, they will settle for these diplomatic half-measures.

This is immediately followed by a thinly-veiled call for an invasion of Syria by foreign powers:

The UN is discussing what to do right now. If there were a large international presence across Syria with a mandate to protect civilians, we could prevent the massacres while leaders engage in political efforts to resolve the conflict. I cannot see more images like these without shouting from the rooftops. But to stop the violence, it is going to take all of us, with one voice, demanding protection for these kids and their families. Sign the urgent petition on the right to call for UN action now and share this campaign with everyone.

The background of Avaaz sheds light on its unequivocal pro-war and anti-Syrian position.


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June 10th, 2012, 11:58 pm


205. Son of Damascus said:

MJABALI and Sandro Loewe,

Historically this mountain range was called Bargylus (Hence the name of the Chateau Bargylus Winery) towards the south of the mountain range it is called Jabal Al-Anṣariyyah (Jabal an Nusayriyah/Jabal Nusairi) by the locals and towards the north close to Nahr El Kebeir (Eleutherus) it is called Jabal Al Akrad by the locals.

Now where exactly the magical line where the locals stop calling one and start with the other I am not sure, but I do know that both terms are topographically correct.

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June 11th, 2012, 12:04 am


206. Ghufran said:

I do not know too many people who believe or want to pursue the path of division,in that sense I agree that this is not a solution and it is not good for Syria,however,when scores of people die for who they are and not of what they did,such a path may become an option,but not an easy one.
Intractable diseases may lead to desperate treatments,so said the Brits.
On a positive note,I think Syrians are less likely to enlist in death squads than their neighbors but that assumption is not comforting enough,the blood shed must end if we have to avoid this gloomy scenario.

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June 11th, 2012, 12:14 am


207. Ghufran said:

It looks like the FSA lied about the killing of Aljadid TV reporter
أحال القاضي صقر صقر التحقيقات التي اجريت في الشمال في قضية مقتل المصور في تلفزيون الجديد علي شعبان ومحاولة قتل زملائه الى مفوض الحكومة لدى المحكمة العسكرية القاضي صقر صقر بحسب الصلاحية.
وقد ادعى القاضي صقر على عناصر من الجيش السوري وعلى من يظهره التحقيق أقدموا في وادي خالد على قتل المصور في “تلفزيون الجديد” الزميل علي شعبان وعلى فريق العمل الذي كان يرافقه، باطلاق النار عليهم وقتل شعبان ومحاولة قتل الاخرين قصدا، سندا الى المواد 547، 547/251 عقوبات، وأحال الادعاء على قاضي التحقيق العسكري الاول.
The FSA probably lied also about the kidnapped Lebanese pilgrims.
A possible explanation lies in the fact that the FSA is not a cohesive army with one leadership,the left hand of the FSA may not know what the right hand is doing.

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June 11th, 2012, 12:35 am


208. jad said:

“Its an honest report”…..”to show the world that AQ and Islamists arent leading the FSA.”

They deny being ‘Islamists’ or from AQ while they still shave their mustaches and grow their beards, how believable or honest reporting is that?
Maybe that smuggled German reporter who is going around with the armed non ‘Islamist’, non ‘AQ’ terrorists and exposing herself of being caught in the dangerous game of war can tell the victims of the terrorist attacks linked to AQ that those killers are lovely, peaceful and sweet ‘angels’.
Instead I suggest for her to go ask the victims to forgive her ‘honesty’ in covering up the truth for political reasons:

a day not to forget…The terrorist attack on Al Qazaz area 10.05.2012

Syria News 10 June. Documentary on Bombings Planned and Carried out by Al Qaeda.

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June 11th, 2012, 12:37 am


209. jad said:

Syria- Intercepted a call between two Terrorists – (Massacre Beheading, Al Qaeda style)

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June 11th, 2012, 12:41 am


210. omen said:

There is important news,one major defection,Regiment 743,which has SAM missles has defected, they showed on Arabiyeh,those big missles and Assad planes bombarding the regiment. 7:27 pm



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June 11th, 2012, 12:43 am


211. jad said:

بعد يومين من تلفيقها خبر”الأسلحة الكيماوية” في حمص ، “العربية” تلفق خبر انشقاق كتيبة دفاع جوي!؟

القناة و”ضباطها الجويون” ، ومعهم رامي عبد الرحمن، لا يعرفون التمييز بين”سام 6″ و”سام2″ أو عدد ضباط وعناصر الكتيبة وعناصرها ! وهذه هي قصة ما جرى

دبي ، الحقيقة ( خلص): بعد أقل من يومين على فبركتها قصة استخدام “اسلحة كيميائية” من قبل الجيش السوري في حمص، وهو ما ضبطناها فيه بالجرم المشهود ، أقدمت القناة نفسها يوم أمس على فبركة تقرير يزعم انشقاق كتيبة دفاع جوي في منطقة “الغنطو” القريبة من بلدة الرستن في محافظة حمص، وقد جاء تقريرها مليئا بالفضائح والكذب الذي يكشف جهلها حتى بأبجديات الموضوع الذي تتحدث عنه.
يعرف حتى رقيب ، ولا نقول أكثر، خدم في الدفاع الجوي، أن التقرير لا أساس له من الصحة ، وهو شعوذة من ألفه إلى يائه. ويقول العقيد الركن المتقاعد حسين كردي ، وهو قائد كتيبة دفاع جوي سابق، وأحد مؤسسي كلية الدفاع الجوي في حمص والمدرسين فيها إلى حين تقاعده، وأحد جرحى حرب تشرين، إن من يقرأ الخبر، وإذا ما كانت له خبرة ولو بسيطة بالمسائل التنظيمية والتقنية في الدفاع الجوي في سوريا، يكتشف في الحال أن التقرير ملفق، وتلفيقه من النوع الغبي جدا . ويورد العقيد كردي الأسباب التالية:
إليكم ما حقيقة ما جرى في الكتيبة أمس:

قام بضع عشرات ( حوالي مئة) من زعران المنطقة المسلحين ، ممن ينضوون تحت اسم ” كتائب خالد بن الوليد” و ” لواء رجال الله” التكفيريين، بالهجوم على الكتيبة على دراجات نارية ( لاحظ إحدى الدراجات النارية في حرم الكتيبة) بهدف تخريب الكتيبة وقتل عناصرها والسرقة والسطو على الأسلحة الفردية (بنادق الحراسات) ومستودع الذخيرة التابعة لها، فضلا عن سرقة أشياء أخرى كالملابس وغيرها. وقد اقتحموها بسرعة ، مستغلين عدم وجود سوى ثلاثة عناصر حراسة . وكان بعض المهاجمين يحمل عبوات ناسفة أرادوا وضعها في ” كبين القيادة” ، أي الكبين الذي يشكل الخلية العصبية الإلكترونية للكتيبة ، الذي يضم صحن الرادار وأجهزة التوجيه وما إلى ذلك ، بهدف تفجيره، فضلا عن محاولة سرقة سيارات ( لا يوجد في كتيبة الدفاع الجوي سوى عدد محدود جدا من السيارات القابل للسرقة، مثل سيارات الجيب أو سيارات الخدمة التي تنقل الطعام. وباقي السيارات كلها من النوع الثقيل الخاص جدا، الذي يستخدم لتلقيم البطاريات / منصات الإطلاق بالصواريخ). ومن المعلوم أن سلاح الدفاع الجوي أكثر الأسلحة حساسية. إذ يكفي أن تفجر عبوة ناسفة متوسطة أو حتى صغيرة في “كبين القيادة” حتى تصاب الكتيبة بالشلل وتخرج من الخدمة ، لأن “كبين القيادة” في “كتيبة الفولغا” عبارة عن عربة / مقطورة تحمل رادارا وبداخلها دارات كهربائية وإلكترونية وشاشات ملاحقة وتتبع ورمي ( شاشات ” فيغو”). وقد استغل المعتدون وجود الكتيبة في أرض زراعية إلى جانب الطريق العام ( تبعد عنه أقل مئة متر) وعدم وجود جدران أو أسلاك شائكة ، وهذه هي حال كتائب الدفاع الجوي في سوريا كلها تقريبا، لاسيما حين تكون قريبة من مناطق سكنية. فلا أحد يخطر بباله أن يقدم سفلة ورعاع على اقتحام كتيبة دفاع جوي ، مخصصة أصلا للدفاع عن البلاد ولا يمكنها لأسباب تقنية محضة أن تقوم بأي شيء آخر، من أجل تخريبها كما لو أنها موجودة في وسط إسرائيلي معادي!

العسكريون والضباط في الكتيبة تصدوا للمهاجمين وطردوهم بعد أن قتلوا منهم ما بين 50 إلى 60 مهاجما( هذه المعلومة مؤكدة تماما). وهذا هو السبب الذي لم يمكن النصابين من نشر سوى مقطع فيديو مصور بسرعة ، على طريقة اللصوص ، من الطريق العام العابر بجانب الكتيبة. وعند التدقيق في الشريط الذي بثته “القناة” سنلاحظ مجموعة زعران ( بعضهم على دراجات) يركضون داخل حرم الكتيبة كما لو أنهم مجموعة لصوص يحاولون السطو على بستان لسرقة محصوله!

هذه هي حدود القصة. نقطة انتهى.

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June 11th, 2012, 12:51 am


213. Juergen said:


Apparently anyone with a beard is a islamist for you right? have you visited the rural Syria?

Thank you for posting the Syrian news, I will report to the police this morning, there are way to many bearded men going to the mosque nextdoor to my home. That must be an AQ sleeper cell.

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June 11th, 2012, 1:00 am


214. Halabi said:

“It looks like the FSA lied about the killing of Aljadid TV reporter”

Lied about what? Ali Shaaban’s colleagues who were shot at said the fire came from the Syrian military. Now the Lebanese court will try Syrian soldiers for the killing. That’s the translation of the Arabic text in #207. What does the FSA have to do with this?

Here’s a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor that mentions the legal case and the random violence coming from Assad’s soldiers into Lebanese territory.

“Yesterday, in a rare censure of Syrian behavior, Saqr Saqr, the head of Lebanon’s military court, charged unnamed Syrian soldiers with killing Ali Shaaban, a cameraman for Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed television who died in a hail of gunfire along the border with Syria two months ago.”

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June 11th, 2012, 1:03 am


215. omen said:

Assad Regime Crumbling?

Rebel battalions in Syria successfully took over a Presidential Air Force base near the village of Rantu in the Homs district, Saudi Arabian owned network Al-Arabiya reported Sunday.

According to the report, most of the soldiers in the base defected from President Bashar al-Assad’s army after the rebels took over.

The rebels say the captured base holds anti-aircraft missile batteries. A spokesman for the Syrian opposition said that the base commander, a member of Assad’s minority Alawite sect, gave his soldiers a choice between defecting to rebel forces and going back to their homes and families, and they preferred to join the rebels.


Arabic media also reported that for the first time, a government building in Damascus has been hit. Until now, rebel forces targeted security forces installations but not government buildings. A mortar shell reportedly hit the external wall of a Syrian government building in the Kafr Susa neighborhood of Damascus. There was damage to property but no report of casualties.

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June 11th, 2012, 1:17 am


216. ghufran said:

the arabic translation of saqr saqr initial indictment was accurate,I did not say that Saqr charged the FSA with the killing,I stated my own opinion,the list of the accused is likely to get bigger after investigations showed that there was a battle in the same area where Ali Shabaan was killed. The syrian army did not benefit from the killing,the other side did.
it is unlikely that the identity of the killers will be ever known,that is what happened often when journalists get caught in a cross fire,not that I think the regime is unable to kill the guy,it just does not make sense to intentionally kill Shabaan who and his station are more friendly to the regime than most Lebanese TV stations.
thanks, Halabi, for the clarification,I expect another indictment to come if the pilgrims are not released,this one will be easier to make,I hope Saqr will apply the same standards on that case.

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June 11th, 2012, 1:36 am


217. Jad said:

A beard with shaved mustach is the signature of the salafis that is a common ritual by them, I thought that an expert would already know this basic fact.
Since you are fluent in arabic and the different Syrian dialects I’m linking again the whole documentary about the terrorist attacks by Alqaeda-like brand in Damascus, you may understand it in Arabic better and if possible could you please translate and send a copy of this documentary to that smuggled journalist, I just hope that she get back home safe:

التسجيل الكامل للوثائقي الخاص باعترافات عدد من الإرهابيين منفذي التفجيرات في دمشق و غيرها من المحافظات
وثائقي اعترافات منفذي التفجيرات الإرهابية 9-6-2012

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June 11th, 2012, 1:50 am


218. omen said:

sky news reporting from damascus (video):

Exclusive: Syrian Fighters Co-Ordinate Attack

An estimated 600 Free Syrian Army fighters were involved in a simultaneous attack on government targets from five directions around the capital Damascus, Sky News has learned.

During the operation on Friday night a bus carrying Russian oil workers was hit and rocket-propelled grenades were fired at a building that was housing them.

A civilian Syrian woman is said to have been killed in the attack on the building.


One source said “several Russian oil experts” died and others were injured, but there is no confirmation of this.

Russian fatalities have not been reported by either the Syrian or Russia media.

Eyewitnesses say they saw ambulances leaving the scene but no one could confirm if Russians had indeed died.

There are thousands of Russians in Syria, mostly technical experts working here accompanied by their families.


We heard later that the government believes Friday’s attack was by far the biggest and most organised on the capital so far and were concerned that key facilities in the city centre might also be hit.

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June 11th, 2012, 1:52 am


219. Mina said:

Jad, #204

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June 11th, 2012, 1:53 am


220. Juergen said:


Well I focus rather on what people have in their minds than how they look.

Thank you for the video, I will have a good watch of it, 2 things are stunning, they had surveillance cameras allover the place, behind, in front of the assasin, amazing that they captured it. I find it strange though that the guy did not show his id card walking around. I think i know now why the Damascus philharmonic orchestra performs so little concerts, they seem to be busy providing the melodramatic music for productions like that. This regime really ecelled in this manner, the voice of the lady commentator, no kidding its art!

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June 11th, 2012, 2:06 am


221. Jad said:

Malyon Marhaba 🙂

One of the smartest article I read so far, someone is looking for some solution and it makes lots of sense, I support most of what he suggested it’s long but full of good ideas that can be implemented if the world wants:

Searching for Solutions in Syria
By Nile Bowie

For sixteen months, the people of Syria have undergone economic hardship, tremendous human suffering and the unparalleled horrors of war. As the Syrian opposition officially abandons the ceasefire and calls for foreign intervention and the imposition of a no-fly zone [1], US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced a new transition plan that would topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, signaling the increasing possibility of intervention outside the mandate of the United Nations [2]. Following clashes between militant rebel groups and government forces that claimed the lives of 80 Syrian troops [3], rebels in Aleppo have reportedly taken 11 hostages and vowed to release them only when a new state is established [4]. While Bashar al-Assad attributes the perpetuation of Syria’s crisis to outside forces [5], Iran has expressed its readiness to mount an armed resistance against foreign military forces in Syria [6]. Regardless of who perpetrated the recent killings in Qubayr and Houla, the profoundly disturbing images of lifeless children begs the question, has the Syrian crisis reached a point of incorrigibility? 
Outside forces must be held accountable for engaging in activities that have brought the Syrian crisis to this dismal stage, namely by paying substantial penalties that can be used to temporarily resettle Syrian refugees and fund efforts to secure Syria’s borders. All efforts must be made to transition the Syrian people into a climate of normality, including the removal of economic sanctions. At this crucial stage, the Syrian government should exercise strict curfews to ensure the safety of civilians, making it more difficult for terrorist groups to operate. Even if an agreement can be reached between Bashar al-Assad and representatives of Syria’s various opposition groups, terrorists groups would likely continue to provoke violence for whatever their purpose. Until both the Syrian government and the opposition can unite under the common goal of providing security to the people of Syria, no viable political transitions can be agreed upon.

The government of Bashar al-Assad must continue to make tangible reforms that legitimize dissent and promote expression, and the Free Syrian Army must agree to gradually disarm and come to a political compromise. The implications of both foreign military intervention and the administrative usurpation of sectarian fanatics hold unacceptable consequences for the Syrian people and the entire region. Even if internal actors agree upon a solution, it will take years for the people of Syria to recover from this conflict and begin to forgive each other. If the majority of Syrian people desire a change in leadership, the world must respect their aspirations, however such a decision can only be reached once the domestic security situation has transitioned to appropriate levels by both sides respecting the ceasefire. Those individuals who value stability founded on the pillars of peace, compromise and conflict aversion must make their voices heard and stand with the Syrian people to help steer them out of these dark times, and eventually, help them heal.

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June 11th, 2012, 2:09 am


222. Osama said:

Wow, the disinformation is coming right on que, the BBC was reporting this morning that an air defense battalion has defected, but it was not in the headlines – strange?! I would have thought that would be a least a headliner, an entire battalion defecting. Right after, Mr Sayda “impressive” speech…

Here is a link:

The story goes on to tell us that after the defection, the AIR DEFENSE battalion, gets bombed by the Syrian Air Force – you would have thought that they would have managed fired off a couple of missiles or AA rounds. And that the FSA always has a few camera’s lying around somewhere – it would be great footage for the 6 o’clock news… if it were true…

Alarbiya (العبرية), does not say it was a defection, but says that SANA “admits” that the same air defense battalion was attacked!! (how many can their be in Al-ghinto?)

So they defected and then were attacked by the FSA?!? or they were attacked and then surrendered and then they defected???

This disinformation is really hard to follow… Hay BBC/Arabiya get your lies straight first! then spread them.

By the way, I went to, their is no statement or admission of anything related to Homs area fighting.

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June 11th, 2012, 5:32 am


223. Osama said:

RE: the defection of the Air Defense battalion UPDATE

as reported by Alarbiya:

Please notice that the video is two different videos spliced together. The first looks like it was taken from a very far distance at maximum zoom (with background sound like the guy was standing by the side of the road) – saying this is the greatest defection to date…

Next scene was filmed inside the site, but no mention of FSA or defection or anything… only the name of the site!

the background noise is a helicopter?!? and a man yelling at the man filming.

Highly suspicious in the best of circumstances.

If you go on to read the whole story it says that the unit “normally” has 130 men and 10 officers, 35 of which were actually on site and that 22 men and 3 officers (out of the 35) chose not to defect, leaving 8 men and 2 officers who had actually defected – assuming any of this is true.

So, according to Alarabiya, 10 men defected and the Syrian army had to call in an air strike to deal with it?!!

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June 11th, 2012, 6:34 am


224. mjabali said:

Majedkhaldoun said:

You said that area is inhabited by Christians and Alawi,I am sure you are aware that Christians are called by some NASARA,and some call them ANSAR.Is it fair to call the mountain Alawi mountain and ignore the NASARA, even that Nasara are large percentage of population?

I am glad you admitted finally that Alawis are close to Nasara than Islam.”

Dude: stop making things up. Where do they call the Christians Ansar? This happens only in your imagination.

Christians are called Nasara and not Ansar.

Today many militant Salafi groups have the word “Ansar” in their name and believe me if that word pointed to anything related to Christianity they would have not used it; example: , Ansar al-Shariah, Ansar al-Islam, Usbat al-Ansar, Ansar al-Mujahidin, Ansar al-Sunnah, Ansar al-Din….etc All of these are actual names of Muslim groups.

Also when you say that the Alawis are closer to Christians than Muslims you mean that the Alawis are not Muslims in your opinion. Isn’t this right?

Sunnis always considered themselves the right form of Islam. This is open to debate of course especially when you go after the history of how the Sunni creed became the official one and the one majority of Muslims follow. The Sunnis never liked to debate this of course and considered themselves the “Escaped Group,” (al-Furqa al-Najiyah الفرقة الناجية). The non-Sunnis are kicked out from their heaven. The Sunnis in this case hold they keys to paradise.

If you have said that the Alawis are closer to Christians than they are to Sunnis, I may see some truth for this because religion aside, Alawis and Christians have almost the same attitude about modern current life. Sunnis are proving that they have a different take, which does not want to include the others as you could see.

When you say that the Alawis are closer to Christians than Muslims, I see no merit in this because the Alawis consider themselves Muslim if you like it or not, with all respect to your personal opinion.

Being Christians before converting to Islam may be the case of many Muslims especially after the Muslim invasions to the land of the Christians.

Syria was a Christian place before the coming of the Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula. Now, Christians are a minority in their historical Syria. Syria was a majority Christians probably till the Ottoman invasion. This very important issue should be studied more to see when the majority of Syrians became Muslims?

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June 11th, 2012, 7:06 am


225. ann said:

Kuwait Declares War On Syria From The Ottoman Border

Kuwaitis join battle against Assad – June 10, 2012

KUWAIT CITY, June 10, (Agencies): Scores of Kuwaitis have crossed over into Syria via the Turkish border to take part in jihad alongside the Free Syrian Army which is fighting the Bashar Al-Assad government forces, reports Al-Qabas daily.

According to reliable sources large groups of Saudis, Algerians and Pakistanis also have crossed over into Damascus. These men are said to have reported to the local command at the liaison office where they were given the Syrian identification documents.

The sources added their original documents have been kept for safe keeping in the office. They will have to retrieve them once their mission is complete. The men are reportedly given the Syrian identification documents to avoid arrest.

The sources said these men have been armed and assigned to various provinces. The sources confirmed scores of Kuwaitis have been denied entry because they are underage.

On the other hand, the Annahar daily quoting the Lebanese newspaper ‘Al-Akhbar’ and other satellite TV news channels said that the Syrian authorities have arrested some Kuwaitis. They were caught fighting alongside the Free Syrian Army forces.

The daily added an MP from the parliamentary minority bloc plans to question the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the authenticity of the news report.

The MP also says he wants to know the number of Kuwaitis arrested and their names and what measures have been taken by the government of Kuwait in this regard.

Meanwhile, MP Nabil Al-Fadhel said the government should not intervene in any manner simply because the government did not give permission for these people to travel to Syria, particularly since the area has been declared a war zone.

Al-Fadhel added these fighters or Mujahideen as they call themselves should take responsibility for their actions because they went to Syria of their own accord to fight without government knowledge.
Al-Fadhel pointed out these people should have learned a lesson when some MPs went to the Syria-Turkey border and returned without entering Syria.

Al-Fadhel says he deeply sympathizes with the families of the Kuwaitis who are allegedly detained by the Syrian authorities — if it is true.

He added that these families should hold responsible those who deceived and brainwashed their children and lured them to go to Syria.

He called for these people to be tried and punished.


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June 11th, 2012, 7:13 am


226. Tara said:

When is Bashar flying to his crime scenes again?   The FSA through the defected battalion possesses a surface to air missile.  

Video, backed by satellite photographs, has emerged that appear to show a Syrian air base being attacked after a battalion, armed with surface-to-air-missiles, defected to the opposition.

Human Rights Watch has obtained images from DigitalGlobe that show the base near Rastan in Homs province, burning after the reported attack.

It appears to confirm video footage from activists showing smoke rising from the base.

The soldiers, who defected from the base, joined rebels in nearby Rastan and Talbiseh, according to activists. Rastan was bombarded today according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

After the defection, video emerged purporting to show surface-to-air-missiles in the hands of the rebels.

Peter Bouckaert, emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said this footage appeared to show SA-2 surface-to-air missiles. He said that in the current context of the fighting in Syria this type of missile does not present the same danger of proliferation as the smaller, shoulder-launched versions, like the SA-7 that was common in Libya. But he added: “It is of course possible that shoulder-launched versions were also present at the base.”

Another clip from activists purports to show munitions being carried away from the base.


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June 11th, 2012, 7:45 am


227. Dawoud said:

Syria’s Assads Turned to West for Glossy P.R.

For some journalists, Syria has been one of the least hospitable countries in the Middle East, a place where reporters — if they can get in — are routinely harassed and threatened as they try to uncover the repression that has propped up the Assad government for decades.

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June 11th, 2012, 7:50 am


228. majedkhaldoun said:

Duse Mjabali
How many times I told that you need to improve your knowledge? and you still talking not understanding what you say, may be your mother language was not Arabic, may be you don’t know Arabic, do you know how Christians were called Nasara, and some times Ansar?, do you know the difference between the Word Nasara, and Ansar?Do you know what Nasara means in Arabic.
Dude , you need to understand Arabic,and stop that juice.

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June 11th, 2012, 8:07 am


229. Dawoud said:


Brother Salah (unlike the well-known regime apologists here, I put it in my favorable category):

NasrIllat’s loss of his son while resisting Zionists’ colonial occupation in the Lebanese south DOES NOT give him the right to defame the martyrs of the ongoing Syrian revolt. Hamza al-Khateeb, who was murdered and tortured by Bashar’s Shabiha state, deserves no less respect/glorification than Nasrillat’s son. Hizbistan has lost ALL in respect as far as most Arabs are concerned for two reasons:

1)its Shabiha have been assisting Bashar’s dictatorial regime, which is proven not only by activists’ videos, but also by leaked Syrian gov’t documents.

2)Hizbistan has unleased a massive media propaganda campaign to defend the Syrian Shabiha state and to DEFAME the courageous Syrian revolutionaries. Robert Fisk and the NYT (as I commented and posted a few days ago on this blog) wrote on how Nasrillat’s media (e.g., al-Manar) and supporters have been using similar vocabulary as those used by the Israeli occupiers. For example, they claim that the Syrian demonstrators use civilian “human shield,” which is 100% borrowing for the Zionist occupiers.
3)Every time you watch Arab media you find most of Bashar’s propagandists from Lebanon and supporters of Hizbistan. Their language is preposterously outrageous in their propaganda defense of Syria’s dictatorship, which is the worst in modern Arab history. Raping Syrian women, as the regime has done, is something that even the Zionist colonial regime has not done to the Palestinians! Shame on them and their apologists.

Finally, as a word about history, please remember that Mousa al-Sadr (the one who was unjustly imprisoned by al-Qadhafi) was no fan of the Palestinians and their resistance. He died while seeking money and arms from Libya, which he wanted to use to arm his Amal movement in order to fight the Palestinians. Most Shi’a residents of South Lebanon, as I saw them on Israeli televsision (I was pre-teen in 1982) welcomed the invading Israeli army. They thought that they were their liberating allies. They wanted them to destroy the Palestinian resistance. However, Israel was dump enough to put its colonial ambitions first, and it stayed in S.Lebanon 18 years longer. This made it personal for NasrILlat and his Shi’a community. They were fighting to save their land and dignity. All Arabs supported them. However, their fight against Israel does not give them the right to resist Syrians’ struggle for justice and dignity.
To be continued in the future as I have to go to work…..!

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June 11th, 2012, 8:11 am


230. majedkhaldoun said:

I think you meant Kuwaitis, not Kuwait

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June 11th, 2012, 8:37 am


231. ann said:

ANN Respect the rules of the site and DO NOT copy articles in its entirety, you have been warned numerous times by the former Moderator and twice by me, if you continue to do so I will left with no choice but to place you under Moderation.

SC Moderator

Syria not alone in killing civilians – June 11, 2012

As the violence intensifies and Syria hurtles ever closer to a full-out civil war, the usual suspects in the western media are beating the war drums and demanding a military intervention.

Spurring on the editorial comments calling for immediate air strikes in support of the Syrian rebels and political cartoons depicting Syrian, Russian and Chinese officials dancing on a mound of dead Syrian civilians are comments from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claiming that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is “doubling down on brutality.”

To give credibility to the rebels’ version, Britain’s Daily Telegraph has posted a video clip on its website entitled “Syria: Houla massacre captured on amateur video.” The descriptive caption advises viewers that these are “horrifying images in an amateur video uploaded to a social media website believed to show the massacre in Houla, Syria, where one hundred people were killed.”

Anxious to see some first-hand verification of the rebels’ allegations, I watched the entire clip. The extremely grainy and jumpy footage depicts an explosion, a resulting dust cloud, some screaming and someone shouting “Allah Akbar!” (God is great.)

The shaky phone camera then moves to a blurry image of a man on the ground bleeding from what appears to be a leg wound. There is more shouting, more Allah Akbar cries, and it appears that the wounded or dead individual is placed in the back seat of a car that speeds away.


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June 11th, 2012, 8:40 am


232. bronco said:


Ghaliun leadership a disaster?

In view of the pathetic state of the SNC, scrambling to survive by playing the Kurdish card with the hope of rallying Northern Iraq Kurds, as well as Turkish and Syrians kurds, I reiterate that the SNC and its leadership have been a curse to Syria and that Ghaliun and his clique bear an enormous responsibility in the failure of the opposition peaceful movement and the death of Syrians in both side. If someone is to blame for triggering a civil war, it’s more the SNC, supported by extremist islamists, than the secular regime.

If you don’t call that a leadership disaster, I wonder what a disaster is.
I hope you don’t expect the new SNC leader to repeat Ghaliun’ s ‘successes’

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June 11th, 2012, 9:48 am


233. Syrialover said:

We read that the US is gathering evidence and monitoring regime attacks by surveillance drones.

Now we hear that Assad is using small drones to help direct his shelling of civilian areas.

Assad likes small drones? I hope he’s reading this:,0,3893056.story

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June 11th, 2012, 2:43 pm


234. Syrialover said:

I feel the shock, the terror, the frantic desperation of people being relentlessly shelled by their own “government”.

For those who survive, the trauma and nervous shock will badly affect them for the rest of their lives.

This is the proud work of the ugly cowards, lazy, mindless thugs, the vicious killers Assad and his gang.

Let’s hope their own end does not come instantly and they, their wives and children experience a long, deafeningly loud siege and shelling without food, water or medical help.

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June 11th, 2012, 3:26 pm


235. Osama said:

Annan: Russia, West agree on transition government for Syria

lets see how it plays out from here – the SNC and the opposition is adamant that they will not join any government which has President Assad as its leader, maybe that’s why Saida has been quite…

There are a thousand things that can go wrong, Annan’s plan was already quite vague. This will now force a split of the opposition into the open, if they all stick with their one and only policy, “get rid of Bashar”, and don’t agree to this revised Annan Plan, they will be blamed for its failure, if some parts of the opposition agree to join the transitional government, they will be branded as traitors by the rest of the opposition or worse become targets for the killers, and will they in turn join the government in condemning the terrorists?!?!

The Russians must have made it clear to Hillary that they will not lose Syria and the noises coming out of the West in recent days – worries about extremists within the opposition – may be a signal that they are not willing to see it through.

Also of interest in RIA Novosti an article quoting Lavrov saying that they have evidence that the Turkish F-4 fighter was in fact in Syrian air space and not in International waters when it was shot down.

The next few days will be telling…

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June 30th, 2012, 3:51 pm


236. Shaykh Adnan Araour is not the Imam of the Revolution, but he is certainly part of it. | Free Halab said:

[…] the issue with the addition of “supporters of Assad” to “Alawite” and linked to the MEMRI version which for some reason also mentions Alawites in a general sense, in a quote no less. It’s […]

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June 27th, 2013, 9:38 pm


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